THE British Army has begun scaling down its fighting force in Afghanistan with more than 70 soldiers arriving back in the region.

The troops from Burma Company, 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment returned to their barracks at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire late tonight.

They are the first of 500 soldiers from Catterick-based 4 Mechanized Brigade who will arrive back in the country by the end of the year.

Loading article content

Burma Company was based in the Nahidullah area of Lashkar Gar, Helmand Province.

The troops were part of an Adviser Team Enabling Company (ATEC).

Their role was to advise, train and support the Afghan police to bring security and stability to the region. They deployed in early October but have since handed responsibility for their area to the Afghan National Security Forces.

Nahidullah is the first of the large British bases in Task Force Helmand’s area of operations to be closed. Brigadier Bob Bruce, commander of 4th Mechanized Brigade, said: “In terms of the campaign this is the most obvious example of progress during our tour so far.

“The important thing has been enabling the Afghans to take a firm hand on the security situation in this area allowing the task force to close Nahidullah.”

Major Ed Fraser, Burma Company commanding officer, said: “This area was hard fought over but a very active police force has come in over the last couple of years. There are over 200 police officers serving here and they have security locked down effectively.

"The police are ready to take on the security of the area. They are running their own operations independently, they have asked for little bits of support but they were operating very much on their own from the beginning of October.”

Following some leave, the troops will be responsible for providing support to the battle groups deploying to Afghanistan in April 2013, when Burma Company will be reunited with the rest of the battalion.

The Prime Minister announced last year that British troops would begin to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, with the UK’s combat role in the country ending in 2014. 9,000 UK soldiers will be left in the country next year.